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Manic Street Preachers-Gold Against The Soul-1993

Yesterday was the 30th Anniversary of Gold Against The Soul from Welsh rockers The Manic Street Preachers. This is the band’s second album following Generation Terrorists, which had them splashed all over the British rags at the time. That album had a Clash meets Guns & Roses feel, but they also like to mention Public Enemy as an influence. So much can be said about that debut, so I will leave it at that. Gold Against The Soul turned off a lot of fans, and it’s the band’s least favorite album. I absolutely loved it when it came out, and still do, but I can see the flaws more now than when I had massive fanboy stars in my eyes at 20 years old.

In 1993, I had left my hair metal roots behind as much as I could, and Generation Terrorists was one of the albums that weaned me off. So many people consider Gold Against The Soul to be a hair metal album, and I don’t hear that at all. Sure, the drums are in your face and the guitar solos are there, but maybe it is because I grew up on hair metal that I know this is not actually hair metal. Just the idea of what the UK thought hair metal sounded like. When it came out, I remember all of us newly named “Brit-pop kids” chatting at the record store about how Queen influenced it was. This was their Queen album. I’m not sure I hear that as much as I did. People also say this was a grunge album, and I don’t hear that either. Those of us who loved The Manics did so because we felt they were anti-grunge. Bassist Nicky Wire will say he was influenced by Alice In Chains and the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the time. Now I can hear that in songs like “Yourself”, which may be why that was my least favorite track on the album. 

Generation Terrorists was a lot about culture and politics, much like a lot of their music after GOATS would be. Gold Against The Soul was more about personal things. They would follow this up with The Holy Bible, which sounded nothing like either of the first two albums, and Gold Against The Soul would end up towards the bottom of their catalog. The thing is that there are some massive-sounding songs on here that were a huge part of my early twenties. “La Tristesse Durera” (Scream To A Sigh) is this slow churning anthem that begs to be sung along with. I wore out the remixes of this song that came out. “From Despair To Where” is a perfect rock song with huge hooks and air guitar-worthy solos. “Life Becoming A Landslide” is a commercial mid-tempo almost ballad that might have been a massive hit if it didn’t turn into a chugging rocker in the middle. Love it. “Drug Drug Druggy” is where you might hear that Red Hot Chili Peppers influence, which I would’ve never heard at the time, but damn if I don’t now. It’s kind of a silly song, but I loved that chorus as a 20 year-old  and still do thirty years later. My favorite song at the time was “Roses In The Hospital.” It is just this light, driving tune full of hooks, and when vocalist James Dean Bradfield sings “We don’t want your fucking love,” my 20 year old heart bloomed with just that. In 2023, it sounds a bit dated, but I still smile when he sings that.  If you were ever going to dive into the Manics catalog, this would be a must listen in my opinion, but long after you check out Everything Must Go, The Holy Bible, Generation Terrorists, and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.

Geese-3D Country, released June 23rd on Partisan Records

I guess Geese are known around Omaha as the band that played a weird set at Maha last year because their guitarist and drummer couldn’t play. People didn’t dig it. I loved it; I thought it was beautiful and inspired. I saw the band two weeks prior in Des Moines with the entire band, and while they were two different things, I thought the Maha show was special. I am in the minority on that one. Anyway, here is album number two from the NYC rockers. Their debut album, Projector, got certain people pretty excited. It’s a very good debut of very well played post punk with some proggy and classic rock things happening along with good old NYC rock and roll. They play their instruments too well for all of that, and their live show in Des Moines felt a little jammy. And here we are, with the band going balls to the wall with weird, fun rock music that could be a bit jammy. They have certainly amped it up here, and all of a sudden their songs have a lot of personality, some humor, melody, and hooks. A very different band here. The title track has 60s girl group sounding background vocals and doo-wops. “Cowboy Nudes” is one of the most fun and addictive tracks of the year, again with the backing vocals. “I See Myself” heads into some Beck “Deborah” falsetto vocals. “Crusades” has a little Bowie meets The Strokes swagger, and “Mysterious Love” is a fun rocker. There is some weirdness on some tracks, of course, but this is a big goofy rock album, and while I like it and think it is a lot of fun, I have to wonder if I won’t desire the more introverted, serious version of the band in the long run. I do bet this version would put on a show at Maha that people would dig.

Leila Moss-Internal Working Model, Bella Union-2023

This turned out to be my most played album of the year so far, besides the latest Depeche Mode album. I didn’t know who Leila Moss was, and I don’t really know all that much now. There are other albums, and she is from The Duke Spirit, a band I somehow missed that sounds fascinating. I haven’t dug into the other albums or the band yet, but I will soon. I only listened to this album because Gary Numan guested on it. What appeals to me about this album, besides the fact that it is a synth album that sounds current and doesn’t sound like a Wish version of an actual 80’s synth album, is that it deals with topics and subjects that are unlike anything else being put into song right now. She stated the album is about the “self-seeking, self-protecting culture” of global economics, where we have forgotten that “competition is just a construct, co-operation is actually the natural way of being… Lyrically, I’m laughing and yelling at surveillance capitalism; I’m throwing down sentences that reach out to simply feel good on good terrain, to feel safe on planet earth. There is turbulence, but an understanding that the urge to restructure is growing; human goodness cannot truly be suppressed.” So-that makes you want to dive in, right? Yeah, well, the way she emotes and performs these things in the songs makes it much more digestible. Sometimes it almost sounds like theater, as if these songs could be acted out on a stage. The songs are dark, of course, but appealing and wonderfully crafted synth works. Obviously, it’s not for everyone, but if you are a bit adventurous and love synth-based music, this is the album to check out this year. Other guests include Dhani Harrison and Jenny Beth.

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